Interview with Samuel Toth – co-founder of Auti-mate, the online video game that develops strengths and talents of those with autism

blocksAt present Auti-mate is available as a prototype, where can we access it?

Our games are available on http://auti-mate.com. We are in the early phase yet, the games are not optimised to mobile and tablet devices yet.

How did you come up with the games Blocks and Gears? Where individuals with autism involved in the planning process?

The two prototype games Blocks and Gears aim at autistic savant skills.
Blocks is a puzzle game that was inspired by the work of Samuel Calmin Kohs, an American psychologist, who created this intelligence testing task in the 1920’s. It measures visual analytic skills. As research shows (e.g. Shah and Frith, 1993) people with autism often perform in this task better than 98% of the rest of us. For example an autistic person with an IQ of 60 may perform as if he had an IQ of 150. In real life such visual analytic skills enable engineers to decompose complex structures into components.

Gears features a number of cogwheels that together compose a mechanical system — a small clockwork. The seminal research of Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues show that there is a strong link between engineering talent and autism. There are more than twice as many (28.4%) engineers in the family of people with autism than in other families (15%) (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Stott, Bolton & Goodyer, 1997). And also autism occurs more frequently in the family of physicists, mathematicians and engineers (Baron-Cohen, Bolton, Wheelwright, Scahill, Short, Mead & Smith, 1998). People with autism are hypothesized to have a talent in understanding deterministic systems, such as clockworks.

We test our games regularly with individuals with autism, so that the software is usable for a wide audience. Many software are made by parents who tailor them for the needs of their own child, and unfortunately such software may not work at all for anybody else.

similarsWhat future games/apps will there be?

Our future games (with possible exceptions) are also tapping the autistic savant skills: visual thinking, understanding systems, exceptional memory, attention to detail, and focus. We have tons of ideas for the new games inspired by real-life activities, studies, psychological tests, field of interests and other video games.

In addition to the games we will implement features to create a structured and predictable environment for the children. For example, with the “timer feature” parents can set time limit to the game, so when the given time is up it is no need for the parents to cut the gaming abruptly, but the game comes to its natural end, smoothly and gracefully.

How can our readers become involved?

We are continuously looking for feedback and support from everyone. Readers can send their thoughts to samuel.toth@auti-mate.com; we are going to answer every e-mail.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Auti-mate was one of the 15 finalists of Social Innovation Tournament by European Investment Bank 2014, and we also participated to ITASD (Digital solutions for people with autism) conference in Paris 2014.

For those who are interested about Auti-mate’s updates, you can keep up to date by following on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/auti.mate.games?fref=ts

Auti-mate website  – https://auti-mate.com/#/socialLogin

 

 

 

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About Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.